Pontneddfechan
Industrial Wales - South West Wales
Pontneddfechan and Penwyllt
Silica Mines, Gunpowder Works and Zig-zag Railways
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The industrial history and archaeology of West Wales

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Penwyllt Quarry and Limekilns

Quick links to :-     Penwyllt Quarry     Penwyllt Brickworks     Penwyllt Railway     Brecon Forest Tramroad
The Neath and Brecon Railway     Pontneddfechan Gunpowder Factory     Cwm Gored Silica Mine
Dinas Silica Mines     West Glam, Carmarthen and Brecon     Pembrokeshire

Penwyllt Quarry - SN 8555 1575

Twyn Disgwylfa limekiln - SN 8550 1575

Twyn-y-Ffald Quarry and limekiln - SN 8526 1595

Pen-y-Foel Limekiln - SN 8541 1533


Dinas Silica Brickworks, Penwyllt

Quick links to :-     Penwyllt Quarry     Penwyllt Brickworks     Penwyllt Railway     Brecon Forest Tramroad
The Neath and Brecon Railway     Pontneddfechan Gunpowder Factory     Cwm Gored Silica Mine
Dinas Silica Mines     West Glam, Carmarthen and Brecon     Pembrokeshire

Penwyllt Dinas Silica Brickworks - SN 8550 1520


Penwyllt Tramroads and Railways

Quick links to :-     Penwyllt Quarry     Penwyllt Brickworks     Penwyllt Railway     Brecon Forest Tramroad
The Neath and Brecon Railway     Pontneddfechan Gunpowder Factory     Cwm Gored Silica Mine
Dinas Silica Mines     West Glam, Carmarthen and Brecon     Pembrokeshire

The routes of the tramroads and railways to the silica quarries

The abortive 1820s tramroad to Pwll Byfre

The original course of the Brecon Forest Tramroad would have seen a loop going up to Pwll Byfre and the formation got very close to it. However it was abandoned due to the lack of coal reserves in the area. Instead an incline from Penwyllt was started but also abandoned before completion c1820.

The 1885 zig-zag railway to the quarries

The standard gauge zig-zag railway to Pwll Byfre was built in 1885, running from a point North of Penwyllt Station. The brickworks purchased a new Hawthorn Leslie 0-4-0ST locomotive No 1992 named Emily to operate the line and sidings. It didn't lasted for long as the loco was sold in 1902 after the tramway from the brickworks was opened.

The c1895 tramway from the brickworks to the quarries

By 1895 the complicatons of the zig-zag railway were replaced by a 2′ 3″ gauge tramway running from the brickworks itself. tramway used trucks and gripper cars built by Kerr, Stuart & Co. Ltd. of Stoke-on-Trent. Contemporary photographs and a description of the operation of this inclined railway exist in a June 1903 article published in The Colliery Guardian. In 1904 Kerr, Stuart supplied a new narrow gauge 0-4-2ST steam locomotive of their Tattoo class, No 859 'Gwendolen', and this from the quarries to the cable-operated incline. The works closed in 1939 but remained intact until the early 1950s. 'Gwendolen' slumbered peacefully in her shed on top of the mountain and a fledgling preservation group, the Talyllyn Railway, realised she would make a good source of spares for their own Tattoo class locomotive so plans were put into operation to rescue her from the lonely mountain-top location. Before this was able to happen however, and history is a little vague here, the locomotive somehow came to be wrecked after careering down the incline and she was unceremoniously scrapped on site by R S Hayes of Bridgend in May 1954.

The tramway from incline top to Pwll Byfre

Pwll Byfre quarries - SN 8760 1660

Historical photos of the railway at work (from the South Wales Caving Club website)

Pant Mawr Rabbit Farm - SN 9016 1468

If you carry on walking over the moorland beyond the quarries you will find the ruins of an abandoned farm and a number of dry-stone enclosures. These were the Pantmawr Rabbit Farm, probably dating from the mid 19th cenury when rabbits were reared for sale in local markets.


The Brecon Forest Tramroad

Quick links to :-     Penwyllt Quarry     Penwyllt Brickworks     Penwyllt Railway     Brecon Forest Tramroad
The Neath and Brecon Railway     Pontneddfechan Gunpowder Factory     Cwm Gored Silica Mine
Dinas Silica Mines     West Glam, Carmarthen and Brecon     Pembrokeshire

The tramroad running through the brickworks site

South of Penwyllt

Near Nant-y-Ffin approaching Coelbren


The Neath and Brecon Railway

Quick links to :-     Penwyllt Quarry     Penwyllt Brickworks     Penwyllt Railway     Brecon Forest Tramroad
The Neath and Brecon Railway     Pontneddfechan Gunpowder Factory     Cwm Gored Silica Mine
Dinas Silica Mines     West Glam, Carmarthen and Brecon     Pembrokeshire

North of Penwyllt Station

South of Penwyllt Station

Melin Llech, Coelbren - SN 8360 1231


Glynneath Gunpowder Factory

Quick links to :-     Penwyllt Quarry     Penwyllt Brickworks     Penwyllt Railway     Brecon Forest Tramroad
The Neath and Brecon Railway     Pontneddfechan Gunpowder Factory     Cwm Gored Silica Mine
Dinas Silica Mines     West Glam, Carmarthen and Brecon     Pembrokeshire

Glynneath Gunpowder Factory - SN 9145 0820

Glynneath Gunpowder Factory was built in 1857 by the Vale of Neath Powder Co, passing to Curtis's and Harvey, later Nobels Explosives Co Ltd and ICI Ltd. The factory closed down at the end of 1931 when Bobbinite was taken off the approved explosive list. Due to the 'explosive' nature of the site it was purged by fire but there are still many intriguing glimpses along the valley. Part of the site was previously Fredericks and Jenners 'Dinas Bridge Fire Brick Works'.

The photos below are in order along the valley starting at the gatehouse.
The numbers on the photos refer to the sites as shown on the maps as far as I can place them.


Cwm Gored Silica Mines

Quick links to :-     Penwyllt Quarry     Penwyllt Brickworks     Penwyllt Railway     Brecon Forest Tramroad
The Neath and Brecon Railway     Pontneddfechan Gunpowder Factory     Cwm Gored Silica Mine
Dinas Silica Mines     West Glam, Carmarthen and Brecon     Pembrokeshire

From Pontneddfechan up the West bank of the river

The Nedd Fechan tramroad, the mines are numbered according to Keith Jones' map.

Grist Mill - SN 9001 0811
Mine No 1 - SN 8998 0827

The mine entrance is 3ft by 6ft with with three passages leading left, right and centre. It is full of water, about 3ft deep over soft mud of unknown depth, as it is difficult to drain being below the level of the pathway.

Mine No 6 - SN 8979 0852

There was an inscribed keystone here reading "J.M.-1873".

Mine No 7 - SN 8986 0906

This mine is just below the footbridge has a large entrance 8 feet high and 8 feet. It goes for about 60 feet then veers to the right and ends but it is flooded with water about 2 feet deep.

Cwm Gored Mine, mines Nos 4 and 5 - SN 8990 0875

Or Cwmcorrin Mine / Lluest Mine

Below Cwm Gored Mine to the lower bridge



Dinas Silica Mines

Quick links to :-     Penwyllt Quarry     Penwyllt Brickworks     Penwyllt Railway     Brecon Forest Tramroad
The Neath and Brecon Railway     Pontneddfechan Gunpowder Factory     Cwm Gored Silica Mine
Dinas Silica Mines     West Glam, Carmarthen and Brecon     Pembrokeshire

A Brief History

Silica rock was discovered in these here hills in the 1780s and became a principal component of top quality firebricks. The first tramway was built in 1807, the 'Dinas Fire Brick Co' was inaugurated in 1822 and a brickworks built at Pontwalby. Starting as quarries, the workings soon extended underground and the stone taken through the tunnel to the village. The mines were closed from 1921 to 1930 when a new tramway was built down the river and down the incline ramp or chute. The mines were acquired by 'Richard Thomas and Baldwin', owners of Ebbw Vale steelworks who built the aerial ropeway over the hill. Finally the mine closed in 1964 and after a few years of inactivity the site was cleared in the early 1970s.

The upper entrances - SN 9166 0800

There are three entrances here with another somewhere on the hill above that I haven't explored yet.

Underground - SN 9175 0805

Vast extensive caverns stretching under the mountain. The lower areas are flooded but there's plenty to see without donning breathing apparatus. The mine is open access to suitably careful, insured, helmetted and lit persons - or, better still, join a mining society.

The tunnel to the quarry - SN 9165 0795

The tunnel connected the mines to the quarry area until superceded by the aerial ropeway. It slopes away from the entrance so you'll have to paddle to reach the further end, which is blocked anyway.

The incline chute - SN 9145 0800

The incline ramp or chute connected the end of the upper tramway with the lower tramway down a 50 ft drop at the waterfall.


Acknowledgments, sources and further reading.

'The Brecon Forest Tramroads' by Stephen Hughes
'The Old Gunpowder Factory at Glynneath' by Pritchard, Evans and Johnson
'The Silica Mines of the Little Neath Valley' by by Tony Oldham
'The Caves and Mines of the Sychrhyd Gorge' by Keith Jones
Dinas Silica Mines - a brief history from the Cambrian Mines Trust
Historic photos - Dinas Silica Mines at work by Roy Bowen
Thanks for information and the use of their photographs to :- Mike Stokes and The South Wales Caving Club


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